Madison Pastrick | Layout Editor
Tom Hanks encouraged all Americans to vote as part of U.S. Voter Registration Day on Sept. 25 at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in Oakland.
“If we do not participate as citizens in every, single election, we forfeit the establishment of justice to others,” he said.
Hanks, who is currently in Pittsburgh to film a new movie on the life of Fred Rogers, was speaking as a co-chair to the nonprofit organization When We All Vote. This organization was announced by former first lady Michelle Obama this past July in an effort to increase voter registration and civic participation rates.
Other local celebrities appeared at this event as well, such as Steelers executive Jim Rooney, fashion designer Kiya Tomlin and Steelers quarterback Josh Dobbs.
Tomlin, who is also the wife of Steelers coach, Mike Tomlin, spoke about the lack of female representation in the Pennsylvania government.
“Did you know that in the entire state of Pennsylvania we do not have a single woman in Congress? That is bizarre,” Kiya Tomlin said. “That’s why it’s so critical to vote. When we all vote, all of our voices are heard, but if we don’t, it’s the people who show up at the polls who get to make the decisions.”
Community members and voter registration advocates opened up the event, including Communication Director for the New Leaders Council Abby Wolensky; University of Pittsburgh student and newly registered voter, Ritika Bajpai; and educator and member of the American Federation of Teachers, Nina Esposito-Visgitas.
Several hundred people attended, including a number of college students that were encouraged to register as newly-eligible voters.
“Eight million Americans have turned 18 since the last presidential election,” said Wolensky. “Where can you find those 8 million 18 and 19-year-olds? Probably in school. So make an impact. It’s not hard.”
Duquesne grad student in the speech pathology department Erin Cosgrove was one of many student volunteers at this event.
“Voting is one of the most important expectations of being an adult in America. All people over the age of 18 have the ability and expectation to influence how our government is run, and taking advantage of that is essential,” Erin said. “I vote because I like to actively participate in our government and be able to influence the world to be more kind and caring by electing representatives who share my ideals.”
This event was part of a national campaign When We All Vote is hosting from Saturday, September 22 to Saturday, Sept. 29. The foundation of this organization is based upon its mission statement, which is to “bring together citizens, institutions and organizations to spark a conversation about our rights and responsibilities in shaping our democracy. Namely, the responsibility of registering and voting,” as stated on When We All Vote’s website.
Along with Hanks and Michelle Obama, When We All Vote is co-chaired by major celebrities, including Lin-Manuel Miranda, Janelle Monáe, Chris Paul, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw.
“‘We the people of the United States,’ that means every single one of us, doesn’t matter who you vote for, doesn’t matter what party you’re affiliated with, it doesn’t matter if you want to maintain the status quo or change the directional flow of the country – it means every single one of us. ‘We the people of the United States of America.’”
Hanks broke down the Constitution of the United States in his speech, mentioning that by not participating in every election, people are giving up the very rights that America was founded on.
“That document is a promise and it is also a challenge to every single American, to partake in what the Constitution promises us,” Hank said. “I say if you don’t partake in the decision that is being made then you don’t get to complain, so shut up.”
The deadline to register for Pennsylvania’s upcoming midterm election is October 9. Anyone interested in registering to vote or learning more about this, can do so by texting WhenWeAllVote to 97779.